Biblical Archaeology Review 44:6, November/December 2018

Strata: Exhibit Watch: Armenia!

If you have visited Jerusalem, you are probably familiar with the Armenian Quarter that occupies the southwest corner of the Old City and was likely established by a group of Armenian monks and pilgrims in the fourth century. Chances are you have even dropped in at the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate or one of the churches in the area, just north of Zion Gate. But how much do you really know about the Christian nation by the fabled Mount Ararat?

In an exhibition titled simply (but emphatically) Armenia!, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is now bringing together the finest examples of Armenian art. Featuring some 140 artifacts from the major repositories of Armenian culture that span the period of 14 centuries, this is the first-ever large show of Armenian art in the USA.

During the Middle Ages, the Armenians created for themselves a unique identity, while also vibrantly engaging in the wider world: from books printed in Amsterdam to silks traded in India. Through illuminated manuscripts, opulent reliquaries, wonderful embroidery textiles, precious liturgical furnishings, and elaborate sculptures, the Met exhibit explores the singular tradition of Armenian Christian art, from its beginnings with the advent of Christianity in the fourth century to the arrival of printed books in the 17th century.

Among the artifacts on display is the silver reliquary of St. Nicholas (pictured). Made in 1315, it is adorned with twisted filigree and gemstones and measures about 19 inches tall.

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